May 31, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
For all of the individual glory and accolades Cazenovia native Kara Cannizzaro picked up in four years with North Carolina’s women’s lacrosse team, all she really wanted – for herself and for her teammates – was a national championship.
In a long, draining and dramatic way, Cannizzaro and the Tar Heels earned that national title last Sunday night, going through five overtimes before edging undefeated, top-ranked Maryland 13-12 in the NCAA championship game at Villanova University near Philadelphia.
In her career at UNC, Cannizzaro picked up 157 goals and 46 assists. She had 19 goals as a freshman in 2010, 35 as a sophomore one year later, and 42 goals, to go with 10 assists, in 2012.
As a senior, Cannizzaro picked up 61 goals and 22 assists and earned first-team All-American status. The Tar Heels went 13-2 in the regular season and made the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament final before falling to Maryland 12-8. They would meet again, though.
In the NCAA tournament, UNC got going with a 19-9 romp over Loyola (Md.), where Cannizzaro had five goals and two assists. Then came a 13-9 quarterfinal win over Virginia where she tacked on three more goals and added a pair of assists.
Then it was on to Villanova, where in the national semifinals the Heels met defending champion Northwestern. It was Cannizzaro taking personal control in the second half, scoring four consecutive goals as UNC beat the Wildcats 11-4, ending a streak where Northwestern had made every title game from 2005 to 2012.
All of this led to the final against Maryland, who had twice beaten UNC during the spring – a 14-13 thriller April 6 at College Park, and a 12-8 decision in the ACC final, and had just eliminated Syracuse in the other national semifinal. Cannizzaro and the Tar Heels were bent on winning the last and most important encounter.
With the Terrapins containing Cannizzaro early, other Heels got open as UNC grabbed a quick 3-0 lead. After Maryland closed the gap to 5-4, Cannizzaro broke through with back-to-back goals, and from there UNC traded goals until it went to halftime with a 9-6 edge.
Maryland, who had not trailed at halftime all season, dominated the early portion of the second half, zooming in front 11-9 with five unanswered goals as it held UNC scoreless for more than 16 minutes.
Just in time, the Heels broke the drought, and with 12:44 left Cannizzaro’s third goal tied it, 11-11. Then UNC attacked again, and Cannizzaro converted again, with exactly nine minutes to play, and the Heels had a 12-11 lead.
Once more, Maryland would pull even, Alex Aust finding the net with 3:51 left. And that 12-12 tie would endure for a long time, first through a sequence at the end of regulation where the Terps held the ball for the final shot, but could not win it.
In both of the mandatory three-minute overtime periods, Maryland claimed the draws and worked the ball around, getting shots to move in front, only to have UNC goalie Megan Ward, a freshman, stop them both.
They went to a sudden-victory format in the third OT, where the Heels had a chance to end it, only to get stopped, and that was the same in the fourth extra period as Cannizzaro’s attempt to give the Heels the national title got stuffed by Maryland goalie Kasey Howard.
Finally, in the fifth OT Ward made another big stop on a Terps breakaway, setting up a UNC chance. Another Tar Heel freshman, Sammy Jo Tracy, charged to the net and, 31 seconds into the period, fired a shot past Howard. The celebration was temporarily halted when Maryland’s coaches checked Tracy’s stick, but when it was found to be legal, UNC had won it all.
All of it was part of an active weekend for Cannizzaro and her family, having seen one brother, Sean, and his Denver Pioneers lose a last-second thriller to Syracuse in the NCAA Division I men’s semifinal, but also seeing another brother, Connor (who will, ironically, attend Maryland next year) lead the Cazenovia Lakers to a second Section III Class C title in three years.
Later in the week, Cannizzaro, named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament, was up as one of the finalists for the Tewaaraton Trophy, given to the nation’s best lacrosse player. Though Cannizzaro lost that award to Maryland’s Katie Schwarzmann, she and her fellow Tar Heels got the prize that meant the most.